One of the best videos I’ve seen on the art of creativity is by John Cleese, it’s 36 of the best minutes you’ll waste on youtube today.
Cleese challenges the idea that creativity is a talent you’re born with, he believes it’s a way of operating. His view is that creative people have simply acquired a facility to get themselves into a “creative mood.”
He also talks about the open and closed mode of thinking.
Creativity can only happen in the open mode-where the mind is expansive, relaxed, contemplative, playful and curious. The closed mode, which is how most of us operate when we’re at work is for getting stuff done-when we’re active, slightly impatient, where there is anxiety and tension over deadlines.
So what does all of this have to do with my previous job at SCA where I travelled every week from Adelaide to all of the major metro markets in Australia?
Qantas gave me something that I have only just realised was an incredibly valuable tool for my creativity, and no, it wasn’t a business class seat with an endless supply of Shaw and Smith.
Cleese believes there are 4 key elements that are needed for creativity.
Space, time, confidence and humour.
Qantas gave me space and time on every one of their flights.
To be creative you need to find a space for yourself away from the demands of your normal day. This space should be completely undisturbed, where you can essentially seal yourself off from any distractions. This is exactly what I had on Qantas, strapped low and tight into 6C with a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones.
Cleese then talks about having time. By this he means once you’ve created a space for yourself you should then have a specific amount of time allocated to creative thinking. Cleese suggests the ideal amount of time for the open mode is about 90 minutes. My flights from Adelaide to Sydney were exactly that.
People would often ask whether I was sick of all the travel I was doing, but for me that 90 minute space-time oasis I created on Qantas was where I did some of my best work. I knew I had a specific amount of time to play with a problem, to contemplate all of the possibilities of a specific challenge we were facing. Or 90 minutes to sit inside a concept that had been floating around in my head which I wanted to flesh out.
No phone calls.
By the time we had to put our tray tables up and our seats back in the upright position I’d almost always created something useful which I would have struggled to do without the freedom of that time and space at 39,000 feet.
What does your time and space oasis look like?
I can tell you what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like your work station in that open plan office you share with 30 other people and Maroon 5 playing every 90 minutes in the background.
Unless you have the luxury of being a frequent flyer, try to lock away 90 minutes of creative play once a fortnight.
Make sure you seal yourself off with no distractions, that includes turning your phone off. If you’re in a group make sure there are no nay-sayers. Creative play is where anything is possible, you don’t want negative or closed minded people poo-pooing every crazy idea that comes up in these sessions.
And remember to stay close to the intended topic or creative challenge. Yes, you can and should move in and around the edges of your topic but to get a result you should never be too far away from it.
Good luck and thank you for flying Bruce airlines.